Back in the days of my lean and hungry youth, when the mortgage was bigger than the month's paycheck and the children were not yet domesticated, hubby and I would save our pennies all year long for one night on the town, to celebrate our anniversary.
We chose the spot for our annual blowout by consulting with richer, childless friends, and one memorable year, their recommendation was for Z Contemporary Cuisine in Shaker Heights, the cutting-edge project of Zachary Bruell, one of the region's first breakout chefs. The details are hazy, but I recall sophisticated surroundings, professional service, and inventive food many steps beyond Cleveland's usual steak-and-potatoes fare.
In all this, though, Bruell proved to be ahead of his time. Burned-out and fed up, he (and his restaurant) faded away in 1995. When he finally resurfaced, it was behind the scenes in the kitchens of Akron's legendary restaurateur, Ken Stewart.
We always felt that Bruell's gig in Stewart's high-volume operation was a waste of talent -- akin to hiring Jackson Pollock to paint address numbers on street curbs, say. But we consoled ourselves with the thought that at least the guy was still around, and who knew what the future might bring?
Well, the future arrived on November 18, when Bruell and partner David Schneider opened their new Tremont restaurant, Parallax (2179 West 11th Street, 216-583-9999). We usually steer clear of newbies until at least their fourth month, to give them time to work out the kinks, but in this instance, we simply couldn't stay away: Less than two weeks after Parallax opened, we were so there, luxuriating in the dining room's understated pewter-and-platinum decor, and paging through menus clasped to shiny metal clipboards.
Based on the classics but full of modern riffs, Bruell's offerings include excellent sushi, plenty of seafood, and bistro standards such as juicy grilled chicken with tarragon-scented pommes frites. Many of the dishes, including an unforgettable roasted halibut with spicy Peruvian pepper sauce, have a Latin flair; others borrow from Asian or Mediterranean pantries. Sure, the kitchen's pacing was still a bit deliberate when we visited, but the precisely prepared food -- straightforward, unpretentious, and profoundly delicious -- was more than worth the wait.
Gotta say, Zach: This time around, Clevelanders are ready for you.